COLUMBUS (NYTIMES) - A teenage girl whom the police said threatened two girls with a knife was fatally shot by an officer in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday (April 20) afternoon, shortly before a jury reached a guilty verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in last year's killing of Mr George Floyd.
The girl’s death cast an immediate pall over public expressions that justice had been served in Mr Floyd’s case and touched off protests in Ohio’s capital city.
At a news conference on Tuesday night, the Columbus Division of Police released body camera footage from the officer, whom officials said had been responding to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing around 4.45pm local time in the south-eastern part of the city.
Officials said the video showed the teenager lunging at two other females with a knife as the officer arrived at the driveway of a residence.
The officer then fired several times – four shots could be heard in the video – at the girl. She collapsed to the ground next to a car that had been parked in the driveway, where the body camera footage showed a knife on the ground.
The girl who was killed was identified as Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, by a spokesman for Franklin County Children’s Services, who said in an e-mail on Tuesday night that Ma’Khia had been in foster care.
“No matter what the circumstances, that family is in agony and they are in my prayers,” Mr Ned Pettus, the public safety director for the city of Columbus, said during the news conference. “They deserve answers. Our city deserves answers. I want answers, but fast, quick answers cannot come at the cost of accurate answers.”
The name of the officer, whom officials said had been taken off the street while the shooting was investigated, was not released. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation will conduct an independent inquiry, which local officials said is standard whenever an officer shoots someone.
Earlier on Tuesday night, Mayor Andrew Ginther of Columbus urged residents to keep the peace as protesters descended on the scene.
“This afternoon, a young woman tragically lost her life,” Mr Ginther said. “We do not know all of the details. There is body-worn camera footage of the incident. We are working to review it as soon as possible.”
A woman interviewed by The Columbus Dispatch identified the victim, who was black, as her teenage niece. The woman, Ms Hazel Bryant, told the newspaper that her niece lived in a foster home and got into an altercation with someone else at the home.
A crowd of protesters gathered outside the city’s police building, local news media reported.
The teenager’s death quickly received widespread attention, including from Mr Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s lawyer, amid a continuing reckoning over police accountability and systemic racism.
“As we breathed a collective sigh of relief today, a community in Columbus felt the sting of another police shooting” Mr Crump said.
Columbus has been gripped by tension over police shootings since early December last year, when Mr Casey Goodson Jr, 23, was shot to death at the entrance of his home by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy assigned to a fugitive task force.
Members of the task force had been in the area looking for someone in an operation that had nothing to do with Mr Goodson.
Two weeks later, Mr Andre Hill, 47, was shot four times by a Columbus police officer who was responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle.
When officers arrived to investigate, they encountered Mr Hill, and one of the officers, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran, opened fire within seconds. Coy, who was fired after the shooting, was charged with felony murder in the case.